Christianization of the Rus, 988

Viking States : Varangian Rus

The VARANGIANS, Vikings mostly from Sweden, sailed up and down the Russian rivers to trade with the Byzantine Empire and with the Abbasid Caliphate. In many places around the Baltic Sea, Viking period coinhoards have been found, many of which contain Arabic and Byzantine coins. Viking boats could sail/row up shallow rivers. The Varangians pulled boats over short stretches separating rivers flowing in different directions, thus crossing the watershed. The same technique was applied to get around cataracts. These stages were the most vulnerable stages of the route. Thus, the Varangians tried to establish permanent control over them. They had explored the Russian river system by ca. 830; around 862 Varangian RURIK established control over NOVGOROD. His successor OLEG conquered KIEV in 882. He established a state with Kiev as it's capital. It was based on a number of cities, each of which was ruled by a prince of the Rurikid family. If the reigning prince of Kiev died, the eldest surviving brother succeeded (who hitherto ruled another city, subject to Kiev). In 989, prince VLADIMIR converted to ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY. Close contacts to the Scandinavian (and still pagan) countrymen were kept into the 11th century. However, the Varangian Rus assimilated, taking over the Slavic language of the surrounding population.
Russian historiography for a long time refused the thesis that the Russian state has been founded by (foreign) Vikings. Language historians however trace the name "Rus" back to the Swedish landscape Roslagen, located in Uppland, just north of Stockholm. The Finns, still today, call the Swedes "Ruotsi".

Varangian Rus' Rulers of the Rurikid Dynasty, - 988
856 - 873/879
873/879 - 912
912 - 945
945 - 973
973 - 978
978 - 1015
Rurik, prince of Novgorod
Oleg, prince of Novgorod, since 882 of Kiev
Svyatoslav (Olga regent 945-962)
Vladimir the Great

The Varangian Guard, by Steven Lowe
The East Slavs and the Varangians, from Library of Congress, Country Studies : Russia
Chronology of Russian History, Kievan and Apanage Periods, from bucknell, linked detailed timetable
The Vikings in Russia, by Stephen Lowe
DOCUMENTS The Varangians and the Origins of the Russian and Ukrainian States (860-862), excerpt from the Russian Primary Chronicle
REFERENCE The Vikings in the East, in : Historical Atlas of the Vikings, by John Haywood, London : Penguins 1995, pp.100-109, illustrated, concise, scholarly
Kievan Rus, in : John Channon and Robert Hudson, The Penguin Historical Atlas of Russia, London : Penguin 1995, pp.22-23

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 8th 2004

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